President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday stressed the importance of the role the public played in the country’s democracy and promised the government’s support in achieving “better democracy.”
Speaking at a ceremony in Busan to commemorate the Busan-Masan Democratic Protests of 1979, Moon also stressed the need for the government’s “power organizations” not to lose sight of democracy, an apparent barb aimed at the prosecutors’ office.
“Our democracy has ceaselessly improved, and grows ever larger. Every time democracy faced a crisis, the people revived democracy through action,” Moon said, adding that the democratic processes are now spreading to the workplace and homes.
The Busan-Masan Democratic Protests began Oct. 16, 1979, sparked by a series of events that began earlier that year. At the protests, students and citizens called for an end to political oppression and to the dictatorial rule of the Park Chung-hee regime, and on Oct. 18 former President Park Chung-hee responded by declaring martial law in the region. In the process of suppressing the protests, more than 1,500 people were arrested and more than 100 citizens tried in military court.
Last year, Oct. 16 was designated as a national day of commemoration, and this year’s ceremony was the first national event to remember the Busan-Masan Democratic Protests.
“The Busan-Masan Democratic Protests were a great struggle that opened the dawn of democracy by overthrowing the Yushin dictatorship,” Moon said, describing the period as the “longest and harshest” dictatorship in Korean history.
The Yushin dictatorship refers to the latter part of Park’s rule, from 1972 until his assassination in 1979. Under the Yushin Constitution imposed by Park, the president had sweeping powers.
In his speech, Moon also stressed the need to reform government organizations.
“No authority can rule over the people as long as we have the great history of democracy movements,” Moon said, going on to list various democracy movements of the past, including the candlelight rallies that led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
Saying the public is demanding “better democracy,” Moon went on to stress the importance of reform within the government.
“All power organizations must bear in mind that they exist not for the sake of the organization but for the people,” Moon said. The term “power organizations” refers to government bodies that wield power over the public, including the prosecutors’ office.
Moon’s comment has been taken by some as being directed at the prosecutors’ office, which has been accused of wielding unbridled power. In recent weeks, the prosecution has also been accused by some of using its powers to attack former Minister of Justice Cho Kuk.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com